After two weeks of thrilling tournament action, Monday will see the rightful king of snooker crowned at the famous Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
All the best players in the world have travelled to South Yorkshire to show their skills on the baize and now just two remain: defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and world number three Mark Selby. The bookies have made O’Sullivan the clear favourite having won five world crowns in the past, whilst Selby is the underdog as he is yet to lift the famous trophy.
Below, we assess the Rocket's chances of making it six; followed by the Hester from Leicester’s hopes of upsetting the odds.
Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Date: Sunday, May 4—Monday, May 5
TV Info: BBC 2 (UK Only)
The Rocket has produced the kind of dominant performances that only a player of his mind-blowing calibre is capable of in this year’s World Championship so far, disposing of Robin Hull, Joe Perry and Shaun Murphy to reach his semi-final against Barry Hawkins.
O'Sullivan picked apart Hull and Murphy with minimal fuss, surrendering just seven frames across the two matches but looked out of sorts against Perry in his second-round match.
At 11-9 down and looking shaky when in the balls, the Rocket suddenly decided to spring to life and end Perry's crucible dreams.
The 38-year-old chalked up four frames on the spin to take a 13-11 victory, with two impressive centuries in the final two frames—a beautifully crafted 124 followed by a 113 haul.
Going for his third successive World Championship title, it was as if O'Sullivan said to himself after frame 20 that he wasn't going to give up on his dreams of a hat-trick just yet, and he produced his very best when it mattered most.
He continued his strong form against Murphy in the quarter-final, where he took 13 of the final 14 frames to record a convincing victory.
A player of Murphy’s ability would usually have given O’Sullivan a scare, but he appeared intimidated against the Essex cueman throughout the match; and that's something that O'Sullivan enjoys when he’s at the table—per Hector Nunns of the Mirror:
I do feel like I intimidate people and, if I get going, I put pressure on my opponent. It’s not the name, it’s what you do on the table. That’s what can happen as a top player and, as Stephen Hendry used to say, it is an advantage.
The Rocket had the beating of Hawkins in his semi-final, meaning that it'll be three finals on the row for O'Sullivan, but will it be three Crucible crowns?
The world number three may not have the World Championship pedigree of his opponent, but he certainly knows how to win big tournaments. Selby is a three-time Masters champion and added the UK Championship to his trophy cabinet in 2012. Other ranking title victories include the Welsh Open, Shanghai Masters and Wuxi Classic, so he certainly knows how to get over the line.
Interestingly, two of those finals have been against O’Sullivan; the 2012 Welsh Open and the 2010 Masters. Every player knows they are in for a tough match against the Rocket, but Selby may just be more confident than most in claiming victory.
Selby said of O’Sullivan, in a press conference:
"Ronnie's a genius and doesn't fear anyone. He's played some great snooker in patches and he's missed a few balls and people haven't punished him. I know I'll get my chances, but it's a matter of whether I take them or not."
The Jester from Leicester may not have been entirely inspiring in the early rounds of this event, but he came to life in a thrilling semi-final victory over Neil Robertson. It was an epic battle against the Aussie, but Selby prevailed 17-15, closing it out with a nerveless break of 74.